Buy The False Prince
Special Price: $6.29 (Regular price: $6.99)
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Reviewer: Melissa on May 28, 2013
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
In a faraway land, civil war is brewing, and in an effort to unify his people, a nobleman named Conner creates a cunning and treacherous plan to find an orphan who could impersonate the king’s son and install him on the throne. Four orphans must compete for the staring role, including the mischievous and defiant Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are beyond questionable, but if he doesn’t try to win, then he will most certainly be killed. And of course, each of the other boys has an agenda all of their own. If my experience is anything to go by, then readers of all ages will be unable to put down The False Prince, the first book in the thrill-a-minute Ascendance series by Jennifer A. Nielsen.
Some fantasy novels take 50 pages for the world and the characters that the author has created to charm you. With Nielsen’s The False Prince, however, it took exactly three sentences for me to be hooked on Sage’s voice, and admittedly laughing out loud at the situation in which I first met him. I don’t guarantee many things, but when it comes to this middle grade novel, I do guarantee that you will, too. Will you have a comprehensive understanding of his world by that time? No, of course not, but you will undoubtedly be situated in his class, voice, and one of his impressive character traits: thievery. And by the time you’ve finished the first chapter, you’ll be familiar with several others, including his open defiance of authority, facility with a lie, and the unique ability to get into heaps of trouble. This may be an action-packed book, but Sage is why you, any middle grade-aged readers, and even the most reluctant of readers will fall in love with this book, whether its your first or a subsequent read.
While readers may be in love with Sage from the very beginning, he doesn’t necessarily get the same love and respect from the other characters. He lives in a very regimented society, one in which the rules for social interaction between different sexes and classes are required for things to run smoothly (race doesn’t figure into this novel). Sage understands these rules, but he refuses to adhere to them, causing a lot of tension between him and almost everyone he meets. While the friction caused by Sage’s actions and their consequences could easily cause readers to lose sympathy for him, Nielsen shows the remorse that Sage feels when his actions negatively impact others, especially those in the lower classes, like the mute servant named, Imogen. Readers also learn that The False Prince’s social order prohibits people who are born into one class from moving to another, but Conner’s plan would require either Sage or one of the other orphans to do so, causing further conflict for the characters. Often these tensions are dealt with using Nielsen’s expert brand of sarcastic humor, such as when Sage gets Errol, his servant at Conner’s home, to admit that it’s difficult to call him “Sir” when he’s wearing the filthy, ripped clothing of an orphan. Of course, in most of the instances, Sage’s defiance creates frustration for the other characters involved, but I’ll leave those examples spoiler free.
As I mentioned earlier, this book is action-packed and many of the most engaging plot points happen as a result of Sage’s resistance to the contest he’s in – whether he likes it or not. At times, he cockily suggests that he’s better than one of his teachers or gives a tongue-in-cheek response to Conner when he poses a question. However, the action also goes beyond these character traits to include everything from horse riding, sword fighting, and plenty of danger not only for the secondary characters, but also for Sage himself, raising the stakes of the novel for the characters and ultimately, making it impossible for readers to it down whether it’s your first or subsequent re-read of The False Prince.
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